We’ve all experienced it. That moment when you have no idea what someone is saying to you. You nod and smile until they ask you a question.
Then you have no choice but to admit it… you’re completely lost!
Or maybe while you are nodding and smiling you realize the other person has just told you that their dog has died…
These situations are completely normal when you are learning another language :). There are such a variety of accents, enunciations, speeds, volumes, and ways of communicating, that it’s normal to miss many things.
In fact, there are probably occasions when you don’t understand something in your own language due to one of those factors. The quicker you get used to it the better. Why? Because the more you face these situations the faster your listening skills will improve.
Here are our key ways to improve your listening:
1) Create a habit of listening in English every day.
Even if it is just five minutes a day. There are two ways of listening: Passive listening, where you have the audio or the video on while you are doing other things (walking, driving, working…). This is good for becoming familiar with the sounds and intonation in English.
The other type of listening, active listening, requires your full attention, and you can write down the vocabulary and grammar that you learn from it. You can also write a short summary and your opinion and share it with someone else. This is highly effective.
2) Practice listening in your native language.
Many of us aren’t great listeners in our own language. Learn how to pay attention to the person in front of you in a relaxed way, so that you understand the message they want to transmit. You can practice this with another person. Ask them to tell you something about themselves, and then see if you can summarise what they have said.
3) Face the situations you fear.
The most effective way to improve your listening is having real life conversations with people in real situations. After all, that is one of the reasons you are learning English, isn’t it? Those are the moments when you really test all the skills and qualities you need to be a good communicator: Listening, focus, confidence, connection, and precision.
As the English entrepreneur Richard Branson said: “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over”.
Good luck and… enjoy! 😉
Next year I am going to:
- Go the gym three times a week.
- Eat five pieces of fruit every day.
- Give up drinking. No more beer for me.
- Learn a new language… or two. Chinese would be useful…
- Save lots and lots of money! I don’t know how yet…
- Become really successful… I don’t know what for yet…
- Be just generally amazing. The best version of me.
- Surprise myself by keeping at least one New Year’s Resolution after the first week of January…
New Year’s Resolutions are a great way to practice the future with “going to”. When we make a plan we use the future with “going to”… the question is, how committed are you to your plans?
Here at ISA Estudios Internacionales, we recommend that you make some realistic New Year’s Resolutions; plans that you actually believe in.
Why don’t you start with English? What realistic plans do you have with English next year? You will feel more motivated if you choose things that are more specific than “Improve my English”. For example:
I am going to:
- Speak English in a restaurant in the UK when I go to London.
- Attend classes once a week.
- Listen to English for ten minutes every day.
- Pass an English exam.
- Get a job where I use my English.
- Speak English at my work meetings.
Etc. Enjoy! 😀
It is the beginning of November and we can already breathe Christmas.
The streets are starting to light up. The shops are adopting trees, sparkly objects and All I want for Christmas is you on repeat.
However, the weather is refusing to embrace Christmas yet. Snow? What’s that? For goodness’ sake, we are in November!
Here is some useful vocabulary with “yet” and “already” to talk about the annoying – for some 😉 – early Christmas:
Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?
No, not yet. It’s too early!
Have you written your Christmas list yet?
Yes, of course! I know what I want already. I have written a list to Santa Claus.
Have you decided what you are going to do for New Year yet?
No, not yet. Although, I have already bought my dress! It was on sale.
We hope you already feel more comfortable using “yet” and “already”. More importantly, we hope you have a wonderful November… without too much Christmas! 😉
Do you want to learn English or improve your English?
Do you want to improve your English or speak English NOW?
Do you want to speak English NOW or speak English NOW and feel good?
Here’s how to do that:
BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE.
Have you ever wondered why you speak better with your teacher than in “real” situations?
Simply because you feel more confident.
Have you ever spoken badly in your native language because you were nervous?
It’s often not about what you are saying but who’s watching you.
Have you ever had a fluent conversation with someone in English and not been able to remember how you did it?
That’s because you were focused on the message and not on the grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and “How you sound”.
Give yourself the permission to learn. Don’t be too self-demanding and definitely don’t try to be perfect. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that can happen?
Then… get out of your comfort zone! It’s honestly the only way to truly learn. Speak more in class, and when that becomes your comfort zone, look for as many “real” situations as possible, and go for it!
Each time you speak English it is a learning experience. If you don’t speak you don’t learn. As simple as that.
The more risks you take the more your confidence will increase. And your communication ability will jump to the next level. Try it and see for yourself.
As Tony Robbins said (in American English):
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
Say goodbye to complicated explanations about the present perfect. Here we will give you two general rules, and three specific rules.
1) The present perfect is something that started in the past and continues in the present, or has a direct impact on the present.
2) We don’t specify the moment when the action or process took place (only the time-frame: Today, this month, this year etc).
1) An action that happened at an unspecified time in the past, and could be repeated in the current timeframe – this week, this year, this life (in the future) etc.
I have been to the gym three times so far this week.
Have you ever been to Russia?
No, I’ve never been to Russia.
I’ve seen that film twice.
JK Rowling has written X books (versus, Shakespeare wrote X books, as he is no longer alive).
*Be careful: If it’s the afternoon and you talk about “this morning”, that is considered to be the past simple tense: This morning I went to the doctor’s.
2) A process that began in the past and continues in the present.
You’ve got taller since the last time I saw you!
You’re English has really improved!
I’ve lived here for two years / I’ve lived here since 2013.
Have you finished yet?
No, I haven’t finished yet.
*If you move to another place you would say: “I lived there for two years”.
3) A recent action with a direct impact on the present.
Scientists have found alien life on Mars!
I’ve lost my keys!
He’s completed the level on the game!
She’s just been to the doctor.
I’ve finished my homework already.
*The answer to “I’ve lost my keys” would be in the past, to get specific information: “Really? When did you last see them?”
We hope that’s helpful!
In the Cambridge First (B2) Speaking exam it is important that you speculate.
This means debating the possibility or impossibility of something.
Let’s imagine we are detectives…
We have to discover who has eaten the chocolate cake in a family’s fridge…
Looking at our evidence we say:
“It COULD be the brother because he often eats sweet things.”
“It COULD also be the mother because she loves chocolate.”
“It CAN’T be the sister because she is away on holiday.”
“It also CAN’T be the father because he is on a strict diet.”
Wait! NEW evidence:
The father always eats with his hands. The piece of cake left has been broken my someone’s hands. Moreover, we have found chocolate stains on the shirt that the father wore that day. So we say….
“It MUST be the father who has eaten the chocolate cake! What about his diet?!”
1) In the speaking exam: Show the examiner what you know!
Don’t answer with one word or one sentence. If the examiner asks you a question in the present simple, first answer in the present simple. Then, surprise him or her by using an example in the past simple or the future… or even a conditional!
2) In the listening exam: Practice BEFORE the exam without headphones!
It is very different listening to the audios through your headphones to listening to it out loud. Make sure you practice without headphones to get used to it.
3) In the writing exam: Use short sentences and connectors.
Communication is always better when it is short, clear and precise. Do use some relative clauses but don’t write ridiculously never-ending sentences. You can link your sentences together with connectors such as “However”, “Moreover” etc.
4) In the reading exam: Read the question before the text.
That way you read the text intelligently, knowing what you are looking for. You will save time.
Enjoy these 4 tips, and remember: Practice, practice and more practice!
That annoying question. You know what you like but your mind goes blank. What do I like? Why can’t I think of anything? Am I boring?
No, you’re not boring :). With exam nerves it’s normal to panic sometimes. So, to avoid that, let’s prepare the hobbies question right now.
There are four main ways you can talk about your hobbies:
In my free time…..
I like + gerund
I like going swimming.
I love + gerund
I love travelling.
I enjoy + gerund
I enjoy having fun with my friends.
I + frequency adverb + present simple.
I usually read non-fiction books.
In the exam try to give examples in another verb tense. For example:
I love playing tennis. In fact, yesterday I played tennis with my best friend.
You can also impress the examiner with this:
If I had more time I would read more (second conditional, points, points, points).
I used to play the piano but now I don’t have time (“Used to” – more points).
So, don’t panic. You are not being marked for what you do but for how you say what you do. Keep it simple and learn the structures. And… enjoy! Go and watch a good film in English – with subtitles if you must. Make English one of your hobbies and all this will be easier! ;).
Student: I used to go out with my friends at the weekend.
Teacher: Ah, so now you don’t go out with your friends?
Student: Yes, yes, I used to… Ah no… I USUALLY go out with my friends!!
Teacher: Hehe, that’s right. Now, tell me something you USED TO do.
Student: AH, used to is like “solía”, isn’t it?
Teacher: Not exactly. It’s: “Antes era/hacía/decía etc”. For example: I used to be fat. This example doesn’t work with “solía”.
Student: AH, that’s true! OK, so, I used to be shy, and I didn’t used to go out very much. Now, I am very sociable and I USUALLY go out EVERY weekend!
Teacher: Fantastic! Now, tell me. Are you used to speaking English?
Student: Did I used to? Well, a little, at school. I didn’t SPEAK it very much, but I studied it.
Teacher: This is a different meaning of “Used to”. I am asking you if you are accustomed to speaking English.
Student: AH! Of course!! Yes, I suppose I am used to speak English… or at least, I am getting used to speak English – I am becoming accustomed. I have class every day, and I practice with my English-speaking friends once a week!
Teacher: Great! Just one correction. When we use “To be used to” as “To be accustomed”, or “Get used to” as “To become accustomed”, it is always followed by the gerund: I am used to speaking English.
Student: OK, perfect! I am used to English being confusing :P. I have got used to practicing a lot and being patient!!!